FanPost

Marching Order(s): Onto the Playoffs for the Redbirds

The St. Louis Cardinals have had some great runs offensively in 2015 and have had some difficulty scoring runs at other times in 2015. Post-trade deadline (at least the non-waiver trade deadline), there is little that can be done to "fix" an order, whether it needs it or not.

Early on, from games 3-10, the Cardinals scored between 4 and 7 runs per game, averaging 4.75 runs per game in a stretch in which their record was 6-2. From games 76-81, they had a 6 game stretch in which they only went 2-4, largely due to never scoring more than 3 runs, and averaging 1.83 runs per game. Throughout the course of the year, the Cardinals have been shut out 8 times - once in April, three times in May, twice in June, and twice in July. Throughout the course of the year, the Cardinals have scored 10 or more runs in a game 6 times - once in April, twice in May, twice in June, and once in July.

How do you fix an overall average, yet maddeningly inconsistent offense (that hasn't mattered much due to the incredible pitching - yes, that should be acknowledged)?

I think a way to do that is to craft a batting order and let it be for a bit. Let players get comfortable and allow them to gel as a lineup. This is not the statistician in me saying this, this is the assistant coach in me. Here's where the statistician comes in. What should that order be?

While there can be plenty of discussion about who should play and where throughout the spring and the beginning of the season, once you get to this point in the year, post-All-Star Break and post-Trade deadline, the lineups generally get more and more set in concrete - or at least this one should. This team has 7 positions completely set.

Catcher - Yadier Molina

First Base - Mark Reynolds/Brandon Moss/Stephen Piscotty/Xavier Scruggs/Dan Johnson

Second Base - Kolten Wong

Third Base - Matt Carpenter

Short Stop - Jhonny Peralta

Left Field - Stephen Piscotty/Jon Jay/Tommy Pham/Peter Bourjos (in CF w/ Grichuk in LF)

Center Field - Randal Grichuk

Right Field - Jason Heyward

Italicized are the two positions I am uncertain of, but here are my thoughts: I believe that left field should be Stephen Piscotty's to lose. Unless he begins to hit like a Daniel Descalso or Allen Craig circa 2014, he should be playing. I believe

Yadier Molina is not - and likely will never again be - in peak 2011-2013 form in which he hit for a 130 OPS+ over a three year stretch. That's not Yadi any more. The 32 year old is probably better than the .287/.325/.360/.684 guy that we're seeing (good for a 90 OPS+), but I wouldn't bet on it with how often he's needed behind the plate for the Cardinals.

Mark Reynolds and Brandon Moss are basically the same hitter. This year, they have 687 PA, 515 AB, 114 hits, 58 runs, 29 doubles, 3 triples, 24 homers, and 85 RBI with 62 walks and 197 K. First base is going to pretty much give you this line from here on out: .221/.308/.429/.737 with a strikeout around two of every seven plate appearances.

Kolten Wong has hit .273/.333/.422/.755 this year, which is just above average for a hitter and well above average for second basemen. He's been cool as of late, so I don't rely on him near the top of the order at the moment.

Matt Carpenter has been incredibly good since entering the leadoff spot primarily in the 2013 season. From the leadoff spot:

2013 - .323/.398/.483/.881 - 148 wRC+

2014 - .272/.375/.375/.750 - 117 wRC+

2015 - .370/.438/.710/1.148 - 216 wRC+

Despite me personally liking that line lower in the order because of the damage it can cause, there is no reason to put him anywhere but the 1 spot. They tried him at #2 this year (granted, he was exhausted/hurt when he was hitting in that spot), but he hit .225/.342/.357/.700 - 100 wRC+ while there. He's flourished since moving back. Leave him.

Jhonny Peralta had a cold stretch in June and July, but I believe he is heating up nicely at the moment. Since coming to STL, he's been super consistent in his two seasons - with an overall line of .273/.339/.453/.793 for just over 20% better than league average. He's really been quite a revelation in this lineup for a SS, considering our biggest names at SS since Renteria left have been David Eckstein, Brendan Ryan, and Pete Kozma...defense first, boys and girls.

Stephen Piscotty has had quite the first two weeks in the majors. All the dude has done is come out with a .375/.417/.469/.886 line, good for a 148 wRC+ - basically, he's been the OBP version of Grichuk...who we get to next.

Randal Grichuk is the rookie of the year in the NL if this keeps up. Yep, I'm saying it should be true. Grichuk leads all NL rookies in wRC+ and plays an above average CF. I'll eat crow on this one. While I still think he has poor zone judgement at times - which shows quite readily in his still-over 30% K rate, he makes a lot more contact in the zone than I thought - and hits the ball REALLY hard. .285/.336/.552 is his line - good for an ISO of .268 (what we were hoping Matt Adams could provide in power, basically) - and a WRC+ of 143 (coming into today's game - in which he has another HR). In the last 30 days, that line is up to a ridiculous .313/.387/.566/.953 - for a 164 wRC+. If he had those numbers all year, he'd have a shot at being the MVP in the NL if the Mets win the only playoff spot from the NL East (keeping Bryce Harper out of the playoffs) and the Diamondbacks keep trailing behind the Dodgers and Giants (keeping Paul Goldschmidt out of the playoffs).

Jason Heyward has been about what I thought he would be, with slightly more pop and a slightly lower on base percentage thus far. There's still a third of the season left for me to be correct - or hopefully to be WAY low on all my numbers. Heyward's .286/.340/.434/.774 line don't tell the whole story. Since bottoming out at a .601 OPS on May 3rd, Heyward has played in 76 games, starting 70 of them. He is hitting .311/.364/.468/.832 in that time period, good for a 130 wRC+.

At this point, I am convinced that Matt Holliday is not coming back this year. If he does, then I completely change my mind on the order. Assuming not, and going with those 9 players and having 8 spots in the lineup, here is what I see the Cardinals should be doing. (Note: I'm not switching to the pitcher hitting 8th, although I am not opposed to that setup being the right thing to do in the NL.)

When Moss plays

Matt Carpenter (L)

Stephen Piscotty (R)

Jason Heyward (L)

Randal Grichuk (R)

Brandon Moss (L)

Jhonny Peralta (R)

Kolten Wong (L)

Yadier Molina (R)

Pitcher

What I'm really worried about in this lineup in the ~30% of the time Grichuk strikes out followed directly by the ~26-28% of the time Moss strikes out when the top three guys get on base so consistently. However, along with Peralta, those 3 are the three most likely to drive in the runs as well.

When Reynolds plays

Matt Carpenter (L)

Kolten Wong (L)

Stephen Piscotty (R)

Randal Grichuk (R)

Jhonny Peralta (R)

Jason Heyward (L)

Mark Reynolds (R)

Yadier Molina (R)

Pitcher

I like having Wong's speed near the top of the order and despite it not being as balance (L/R) as the other order, I think that you've also spread out your speed quite well and spread out your contact vs. power abilities, keeping your better hitters near the top.

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I'm going to keep the rest of this brief, without any statistical data. In looking at the bench (before we get a look at more players with September call ups and a 40-man roster) I would love to see the Cardinals go into the playoffs with Peter Bourjos as a PR/defensive specialist in the OF, Greg Garcia as the backup infielder, Moss or Reynolds (whoever is sitting that day/night), a replacement to Tony Cruz at catcher, and one of Tommy Pham or Jeremy Hazelbaker (a 27-year old RF who seems to have figured out the whole hitting part of the game this year).